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Flight of the Phoenix on DVD

Flight of the Phoenix on DVD

When the best thing about a movie is the fact that it has a plane in it, it really says something about the quality of the film.

It’s a routine flight for Frank Towns (Dennis Quaid) and his copilot AJ (Tyrese Gibson). All they have to do is fly to the middle of nowhere and pick up a bunch of oil well workers, then fly them back. Seems simple enough.

But things begin to go awry when Frank discovers there’s an extra passenger, in the form of Elliot (Giovanni Ribisi). Elliot is a traveler who just showed up one day and never left. Now the plane is overweight and sluggish, and then they encounter a nasty sandstorm. In the end, they crash into the barren Gobi desert. The poor plane is beyond repair, and there’s only enough food and water for 30 days (it’s lovely how such things are always a nice round number in movies).

It’s not long before the stranded crew and passengers start to get at each other’s throats, blaming everyone but themselves for the situation. Eventually, though, they realize they’ll never get out of there if they sit and whine for 30 days. Enter Elliot, who reveals himself to be a designer of aircraft, claiming they should be able to construct a new airplane from the wreckage of the original. Reluctantly everyone agrees, and we have the basis for a majority of the film.

The poor unfortunate souls must fight hunger, extreme dehydration, a dangerous band of nomads, and worst of all each other, if they’re to survive long enough to get home.

Okay, here’s the thing: Flight of the Phoenix sucks. It’s badly written, moderately directed, and the acting is not a lick better than it needs to be. The script was written by Scott Frank and Edward Burns, both of whom are known for witty dialogue, and the former has written some damn fine movies (like Minority Report and Get Shorty). How they managed to botch this one up is beyond us. Bright and early, they even manage to throw in some subtle anti-capitalist quips (“How much do you think it would cost for them to send out a rescue party?”).

Every line, every character, and every situation in Flight of the Phoenix is lifted from some other, probably better, movie. There’s not an ounce of originality, and that’s not even taking into account that this is a remake…

After movies like Cold Creek Manor and The Day After Tomorrow, Dennis Quaid seems to be doing everything he can to ruin his career. A once promising actor, he now likes to take roles in small, crappy movies, or big crappy movies in which the actors are insignificant. Giovanni Ribisi is the only saving grace, being sufficiently mysterious about every aspect of his character. The rest of the cast only seems there because somebody had to take the roles.

But maybe we’re being too harsh. After all, the movie does have a plane in it. So once it crashes, hit the stop button and think fondly of the entire experience. Then never speak of it again.

As a DVD, the only scene you really need to examine is the plane crash. The movie is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; overall color is pretty good, and for the most part detail is as well. But some of the wider shots feature endless dunes of sand, and it’s here that you notice little imperfections like grain (and not grains of sand, mind you!). Most of the time, the color manages to hide it (or it was transferred better in some shots), and to be fair we only noticed it on the 57” TV, not the 27”.

The audio is smashing, however, with strong winds whizzing past you in all directions, things crashing here and there and everywhere, and the screams of hapless victims echoing through the room. It’s available in both Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 tracks.

“The Phoenix Diaries” is a 40+ minute making-of documentary about the rigors (riggers?) of working in the desert. The best part has to be director John Moore getting more than a little agitated on numerous occasions, but overall it’s a well-produced piece with plenty of info and solid editing.

There are four deleted/extended scenes, none of which would have really added anything to the film, but none of them are too bad on their own. Finally, John Moore, production designer Patrick Lumb, and producers John Davis and Wyck Godfrey provide an audio commentary. They’re slow starters, but once they get into things it picks up a bit. It’s pretty standard stuff, discussing the production, casting, and special effects.

Flight of the Phoenix, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
113 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital & dts 5.1
Starring Dennis Quaid, Giovanni Ribisi, Tyrese Gibson, Miranda Otto, Hugh Laurie
Produced by John Davis, William Aldrich, Wyck Godfrey, T. Alex Blum
Screenplay by Scott Frank and Edward Burns
Directed by John Moore


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